There is a simple secret for greater happiness and satisfaction in your relationship, but it might not be what you think it is. The Business Insider Australia recently interviewed the very famous psychosexual therapist, Ruth Westheimer, also more commonly known as Dr Ruth, who said that the most common relationship problem hasn’t changed since the 1980s. And that’s what we’re looking at today: the what, how, and what now.
The world of dating, sex and relationships might have changed a lot since then (e.g. Tinder), but in many ways, it has actually stayed very much the same.
Unhappiness and dissatisfaction in our relationships are still very much caused by the same thing as way back when.
Now, I believe this to be true because people are essentially still very much the same.
Yes, we might have more technology and devices which have changed many things, but we still desire most of the same things, like love and acceptance, and fear the same things, like rejection or disappointment.
In saying this, however, I do believe that technology has altered how we go about relationships because our view of people, as well as the idea of connection, have changed quite a bit because of technology.
Growing up, considering the notion that someone would one day have a relationship with someone via a device in your hands would have been insane … yet, that’s how many Millenials (and the rest of the population also more and more) do things like date, communicate, have conflict, flirt, even have sexual intimacy.
Consequently, many people end up in long-term relationships (and am not referring to virtual ones, but actual ones) who are hugely underprepared for the intricacies and challenges of real-life love relationships.
I see couples all the time now who come to me to work through their challenges and overcome their problems, which are much of the time the outflow of either complete ignorance and inappropriate strategies, on the one hand, or completely distorted ideas about romance and love, on the other hand.
Which brings us to the heart of this post.
What is a simple secret for greater happiness and satisfaction in your relationship?
If there was one thing we all had to pay attention to, or at least review regularly, to make sure that everything is in check, what would that one thing be?
I share Dr Ruth’s view on this.
In fact, the famous life coach and strategist, Tony Robbins, also talks about this same idea a lot in his teachings.
The one thing that seems to really cause a lot of unhappiness and dissatisfaction between lovers, and in life in general, is what we call, “unrealistic expectations.”
Personally, I think that are more accurate term would be “distorted expectations.”
Because that’s really what they are.
Some expectations aren’t necessarily that unrealistic, because compared to other couples they could seem realistic on some level, but that doesn’t necessarily make them healthy’or helpful in essence.
According to Dr Ruth, too many people have “expectations that cannot be met.”
The question is, where do these expectations come from, whether they are unrealistic or distorted?
The short answer is, many of these expectations are often influenced by media, which of course includes social media.
TV and Hollywood, for example, paint us pictures of romance and love which are not real, in many cases.
Additionally, one could also add the impact that our access to online dating sites, live porn sites, Instagram with all its perfect looking people, etc. have on our view of reality and therefore expectations.
But at the end of the day, no matter the source of our expectations, the reality is that the further removed our view of reality is from actual reality, the greater our sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our reality.
I’ve had this conversation with a few couples over the last couple weeks, where a big part of their dissatisfaction came from a dissonance between their distorted expectations, and actual life and their situation.
Now, that’s not to say that one should not have a healthy sense of dissatisfaction when your situation or circumstances aren’t that great.
That’s not what I’m saying at all.
One can have healthy levels of dissatisfaction, which compels you to make positive and constructive changes in your situation.
That’s completely fine.
The problem comes when we have distorted expectations based on fiction or false evidence appearing real.
When we live in a society where we believe our value (and for many, their income) is based on the popularity and acceptance of our “brand,” as it is these days, you end up with people doing strange, unnatural things, otherwise also known as shit, AND presenting themselves in the most extreme ways possible, all to stand out.
And that’s fine if when looking at this, we can make that distinction in our heads.
However, it seems like we can’t, and increasingly so.
It becomes problematic when we look at that very hot girl on Instagram and project that expectation onto our wife … or vice versa.
Or you look at another couple on Facebook, posting videos and pictures of their fun, free, financially-independent, childless and sex-filled life, and you project that onto your situation which is vastly different.
Or, you start lying to yourself by creating fake images and posts to get validation from the world around you; internally you might get a fix but it’s short-lived and empty, and you deep down you know that.
And doing that can only lead to increased levels of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with your current situation.
Because the bigger the gap is between what is for you, and what you believe it should be, the bigger or deeper your levels of unhappiness will be.
Now, again, I have no problem with having high standards for your life and your relationship, or your future.
I completely support that.
If you want to pursue a life where you get to travel to many different countries, hang out on tropical beaches all day long, and take pictures in the nude for the world to see, then go for it!
I will be the last one standing in your way.
In fact, some psychologists believe that the most effective approach to increase your happiness and satisfaction is to aim high while remaining flexible and realistic.
And it makes sense to me.
As people, we also have a need to grow.
When we don’t, that also leads to levels of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. We end up becoming, and feeling, stuck.
However, that’s not what we’re talking about.
What we are talking about is distorted expectations that are unrealistic, and perhaps even unfair in nature, which we apply to our loved ones and our relationships, and ends up poisoning everything that is good we have with our partners.
And so consequently, you then get certain people who would become so unhappy and dissatisfied, that they leave their relationships for another, hoping to satisfy their expectations with someone else and somewhere else, only to discover later on that disappointment can actually follow you around … even to that new relationship with the new partner.
Here’s the thing, if you want to create deeper and greater levels of happiness and satisfaction in your relationship starting today, you have to look at the role your current expectations are playing in your current state of things.
How are they contributing to your overall state of happiness and satisfaction?
Now, to help you out, let me give you a few tips for creating greater happiness and satisfaction in your relationship
- LEARN TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS.
You can want to lose 15kg or 30 pounds or buy a new car without letting your happiness depend on such events.
Work with whatever circumstances come your way, or are real for you right now.
Then replace any feelings of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or disappointment with more empowering emotions like gratitude, acceptance and curiosity.
The moment you do this, you will find yourself opening up much more for good experiences and overall, increased, levels of happiness and satisfaction.
Even while you’re en route to achieving your goals.
- LET GO OF THE PAST.
When our expectations are not based on a distortion of reality, they are typically based on some previous experience(s).
But, here is the truth … At some point, you will have to learn to let go of the past and DECIDE how you want to live now.
Holding your partner prisoner to unrealistic expectations because of a past relationship, that didn’t work out by the way, is not just unfair, it is completely toxic to your happiness.
And whether you decide to stay with your current partner or not is beside the point.
You are poisoning yourself by holding onto the past.
Yes, use the past to learn from, and become better, but let that be it.
Anything else is pointless. It is done. It’s over. Move on.
- RAISE THE BAR FOR YOURSELF.
If you really want to create greater levels of happiness and satisfaction, you have to raise the bar for yourself.
I’ve seen so many couples make this mistake where they were waiting for the other person to make some changes, or change in some way or another before they were willing to do something to improve their situation.
The problem with this strategy is, while you’re waiting for the other person to change, they are also most likely waiting for you to do something.
And isn’t this a stupid approach anyway?
Why wouldn’t you want to be the best version of yourself, regardless of your partner, if you had a say in the matter?
Which you do by the way.
Raise the bar for yourself, and start demanding more of yourself than anyone else does.
Doing this will automatically give you greater levels of happiness and satisfaction, without having to wait for anyone else.
Chances are that your partner will most likely respond positively to this when they see you taking the lead.
- GET REAL.
There is a saying in the Ancient Scriptures that you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
I like that.
Too many of us live life from a place of make-believe or dishonesty.
We are essentially deceiving ourselves.
The problem is, without becoming brutally honest with yourself about what you can do to change things and create greater levels of happiness and satisfaction for yourself, you’re actually just BS-ing yourself.
Know what is real. Know what is fiction.
Understand your abilities and strengths.
Know what you can do and not do.
Know and appreciate the opportunities you have.
Know what you value above all else.
And then, use all of that and go after it.
Stop telling yourself what your partner is or isn’t doing, OR how they are making you feel.
If it’s that bad, call it a day and move on.
But if it’s not, and you’re simply slightly frustrated, confused, unhappy or dissatisfied because they are not living up to your expectations, then maybe it’s time to stop looking at what they are not doing or giving, and start looking at your own expectations and contributions.
Are you, in fact, busy with creating a make-believe world in your head and blaming them for not living up to it?
Because of that’s the case, I’m gonna tell you straight up, to get real.
Yes, pursue your goals. Yes, communicate what you want from your partner. Yes, have ambitions. Yes, grow your life. Yes, desire more.
But if it is to be, it’s up to me. It’s up to YOU!
You take the lead. You make it happen. You become the best thing that has ever happened to your partner.
Make that your challenge.
Make that your expectation … of yourself and for your relationship.
I hope this served you on some level or another.
Please leave your comments below, as I love to read them.
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Until we talk again, remember, live and love fully.